The World's Toughest Row
"Once they leave the safety of the harbour they’ll be on their own, on the vast ocean and at the mercy of the elements"
"There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures."
Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218-224
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is the premier event in ocean rowing. A challenge that takes you more than 3000 miles west from San Sebastianin La Gomera, Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda. In other words, the width of the Atlantic ocean, completely unaided. The team will be training religiously, eating gluttonously and no doubt bickering incessantly; however we will still be at the mercy of the ocean’s whims. She may let us wield consummate mastery for a moment before consigning us simultaneously to the caprices of fate.
The very first crossings were made to discover and explore new lands. Today, most crossings are made by huge cargo ships exporting essential commodities across the ocean. But some daring people choose to cross the Atlantic to test the limit of their physical and mental strength; to achieve something unthinkable. The idea of the Atlantic Challenge race came to Sir Chay Blyth whilst he was rowing the Atlantic Ocean in 1966 with John Ridgeway. It was a 92 day battle against hurricanes, 50 foot waves and near starvation. It’s no surprise then that more people have been into space, or climbed Everest than have rowed the Atlantic. It takes a certain kind of person to keep going when faced with blisters, salt rash, sharks and sleep deprivation. That’s why the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is the world’s toughest row.
Heading West, the team will row 3000 nautical miles from San Sebastiean in La Gomera to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, Antigua.
Aegir is a Rannoch R45 ocean rowing boat – the best in the business. She is 26ft long and weighs 1.4 tonnes (excluding rowers).
The boat is designed to be crewed by 4 people, with the capacity for two to be rowing and two to be resting. There are two cabins at either end, with crew sleeping quarters in the bow (the front) and a storage cabin at the stern. In the event of a big storm however, all 4 crew members will need to bunker down in the cabin together. The crew’s average height of 6ft means that Aegir can probably be best described as “cosy”
In 2017 Aegir was rowed across the Atlantic by The Four Oarsmen to win the 2017 edition of TWAC. In doing so they set the current World Record for the fastest time to row across the Atlantic.
Each of the rowers will burn over 12,000 calories a day, up to four times as much as an Olympic swimmer. Our food will consist of dried ration packs and more dried ration packs. There are romantic ideas that we might throw a line overboard and catch a marlin, but our track record of fishing in over populated Carp lakes in Worcestershire begs to differ.
For water, we will collect this from the ocean and process it through a solar powered desalination unit to produce what we need for cooking and hydration. No matter how tired, scared, hungry or seasick we are, we will need to ensure we keep up our daily routines and keep this unit operational. It’s vital that we have enough water to drink, cook our meals, and even stay vaguely clean, but luxuries like showering will sadly have to be missed!
Our training will be divided into strength training and conditioning. Strength training will see us focus on full body workouts, rather than isolating individual muscle groups, to avoid muscle imbalances building up. Any imbalance could lead us to being more susceptible to injury on the row. Considering how far we will be from help, any tweak or tear could spell the voyage coming to an early conclusion.
To help condition us for rowing, we will be getting very familiar with indoor rowing machines, as well as building up our time on the water. Living by the hackneyed motto of ‘train hard, play easy’, we will be focusing on interval training at higher speeds than what we would encounter on the ocean.
At best, a good day in the Atlantic will see us cantering along at 15 knots aided by 30ft rolling swell. At worst, a flat day in the baking sun will make it feel as if we’re rowing through concrete. We need to train for all eventualities!